Historical ridde: Botvinnik vs. Pachman

by Karsten Müller
9/12/2021 – The Soviet team scored 11 wins in as many matches at the 1960 Chess Olympiad in Leipzig. Czechoslovakia came in fifth place. The direct clash between these two countries took place in round 8, with Mikhail Botvinnik playing white against Ludek Pachman on top board. Botvinnik won an opposite-coloured bishop endgame a pawn to the good. But was Botvinnik’s win flawless, or could have Pachman saved himself? Help Karsten Müller find an answer to this historical riddle!

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A well-organized Olympiad

Leipzig Chess Olympiad 1960From the excellent OlimpBase website:

Like the previous one at Munich, the 14th Olympiad was also organized on German soil. Thus, the Battle of Nations was relieved once again on a peaceful field, and this time the number of competing teams reached forty.

All the major teams appeared this time, including newly reigning World Champion Mikhail Tal, who was a few days late because of his child’s birth, and American 17-year-old prodigy Bobby Fischer. Because of him, Reshevsky was missing because he refused to give up first board place to Fischer. Apart from the Soviets, full-time favourites each time and place, Hungary and Yugoslavia, both having plenty of experienced GMs in their squads, seemed the biggest favourites for medals. USA with 4 GMs, and especially Fischer, were awaited with huge interest. Other strong nations were both German teams (remember East Germany played under much political and social pressure), Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria.

Bobby Fischer, Mikhail Tal

Fischer and Tal drew their round-5 game | Photo: Bundesarchiv

In round 8, Mikhail Botvinnik played white against Ludek Pachman on top board of the Soviet Union vs Czechoslovakia confrontation. Botvinnik was a pawn up in an opposite-coloured bishop endgame.

Opposite-coloured bishops have two faces. Pure endgames have a large drawish tendency. With more pieces on the board, however, they favour the attacker, like in the middlegame. So White has good winning chances in the following famous game.

But was Botvinnik’s win flawless, or could have Pachman saved himself?


Share your analyses, ideas and discoveries in the comments below!

Magical Chess Endgames

In over 4 hours in front of the camera, Karsten Müller presents to you sensations from the world of endgames - partly reaching far beyond standard techniques and rules of thumb - and rounds off with some cases of with own examples.


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.


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